Oprah Show Combats Texting while Driving

Texting while driving continues to be a problem for motorists all throughout the country. The Unites States is a society of multi-taskers, and unfortunately, that spirit of multi-tasking carries over to our driving. The problem is especially dangerous to teenage drivers who represent the largest demographic of those who text while they drive.

Consider the tragic story of Shelly and her husband Daren Forney who appeared on a recent episode of Oprah. Two days before Thanksgiving in 2008, Shelly’s life changed forever as she rounded the corner and approached her home. She was returning from a doctor’s appointment when she saw emergency crews on her street. Her little 4-year-old daughter Erica was riding home from school and had been hit by a 5,000-pound SUV. The SUV driver had just finished a phone call at the time of the accident and admitted she was distracted and not paying attention to the road. Erica was rushed to a nearby hospital but Ms. Forney soon received the news from the neurosurgeon that Emily was not going to make it.

Michelle Smith, the driver of the SUV, pleaded guilty to careless driving and was sentenced to two years probation, a $300 fine and 150 hours of community service.

Since Erica’s death, Shelly and Daren have worked diligently to change the laws in Colorado. I don’t want any other parent to have to go through this, or a husband to lose his wife,” she says. “We have been trying so hard to get this law changed, and we’re going to continue until it happens.” The Forney’s came on the Oprah show to deliver their message and hope that people will get off the phone when their behind the wheel. “You’ve got precious cargo in that car. Your life. Your children’s life. They are not worth a phone call, a text, an e-mail. It’s not worth it.”

According to an article published on cnn.com, nearly 500,000 people are injured and 6,000 people are killed each year because of distracted drivers who are talking, texting, or emailing while driving. So far, 19 states and the Washington D.C. have banned texting while driving and just seven states and Washington D.C. have made laws requiring drivers to use a hands-free device if they are going to use their phone. Utah’s laws are considered the most strict.

Oprah supported their efforts with a “No Phone Zone Pledge” she put on her website along with several articles explaining the dangers of texting or talking while driving.

Ron Kramer is a Utah personal injury and accident lawyer practicing throughout the state. Call the Kramer Law Group today at 801-666-3959 for a free consultation if you are in need of a Utah car accident attorney.

Orem, Utah Woman Dies in Fatal Auto Accident

Carlybeth Ramirez, 21, from Orem, Utah was killed following a fatal auto accident near Pocatello, Idaho. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the crash occurred on Monday, January 18, 2010 at around 3:40 p.m. Ramirez and her passenger, twenty-one-year old Tihare Salazar from Provo, Utah were traveling north on Interstate 15 when Ramirez veered into the median. The vehicle rolled when Ramirez attempted to swerve back into the traveling lane landing in the southbound lane. Ramirez was pronounced dead at the scene.

Tihare Salazar was taken to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho. She is reported in critical condition. Both occupants were believed to wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident.

This is a horribly tragic accident that claimed the life of two young people. My thoughts are with the family of Ms. Ramirez as they attempt to cope with this loss. As a passenger in the vehicle, Ms. Salazar has a claim against the insurance to recover the cost of the medical bills associated with this accident. I wish her the very best as she recovers.

Ron Kramer is a Utah personal injury and accident lawyer practicing throughout the state. Call the Kramer Law Group today at 801-666-3959 for a free consultation if you are in need of a Utah car accident attorney.

Gary Coleman’s Lawyer Settles Utah Auto Accident Case

A settlement has been reached between former California governor candidate, Gary Coleman, and Utah pedestrian accident victim, Colt Rushton, the man who accused Coleman and his wife of trying to run him over with a car in Payson, Utah. Rushton filed the lawsuit in September of 2008 following an altercation he had with Coleman outside a Payson, Utah bowling alley. Rushton claims that Coleman’s wife, Shannon Price, grabbed his cell phone after he tried to take a picture of Coleman leaving the bowling alley, on September 6, 2008.

Rushton, from Spanish Fork, Utah, claims that after he attempted to take pictures of Coleman, Coleman became agitated and demanded $20 to take his picture. Coleman’s wife took the cell phone away when the man when he tried to take another picture. Rushton’s attorney said, “As he was talking the photograph, Mr. Coleman’s wife, Shannon Price, attacked him from behind, clawed him, tore up his arm and took the cell phone.”

Rushton also claims that Coleman purposely ran him over with his truck and that’s when police responded to the scene. Coleman’s attorney disputes the allegations. According to KSL news, the two sides were able to reach a settlement agreement, details of which were not disclosed.

I am glad that this case finally resolved. I know Colt Rushton’s attorney personally and know that he would not have resolved the case unless he got fair value for it in light of the facts of the case and his client’s injuries. I wish all the parties all the best as they get back to their lives.

Ron Kramer is a Utah personal injury and accident lawyer practicing throughout the state. Call the Kramer Law Group today at 801-666-3959 for a free consultation if you are in need of a Utah car accident attorney.

Utah Text Messaging Laws Toughest in Nation

A new Utah law that went into effect in May 2009 now punishes a driver who text messages as severely as it would a Utah drunk driver who causes an accident. Legislatures who considered this bill felt that the decision to text while driving is intentional, like the decision to get behind the wheel while intoxicated or hopped up on drugs. “It’s a willful act,” said state senator Lyle Hillyard. “If you choose to drink and drive or if you choose to text and drive, you’re assuming the same risk.” Under the new law, driving while texting in Utah is now considered “reckless” behavior and opens the door for punitive damages against that person if he injures someone while text messaging. The only other state in the union that has a law this tough is Alaska, where someone could be punished with a felony and up to 20 years in prison.

All this came about from the crash that killed two men, James Furaro, 38 and his passenger Keith P. O’Dell, 50, as they were commuting to work at ATK Launch Systems, near Logan, Utah, where they worked designing and building rocket boosters. On that day, September 22, 2006, Reggie Shaw, a 19 year old college student was texting while driving. He had been seen driving over the double yellow line by a witness a short time before the collision. As he approached the car the two men were in, he again crossed over the double yellow line, clipping the Saturn vehicle. This caused the car to spin, where it was hit by a pickup truck pulling a trailer with horseshoes and other equipment. By reports, the two scientists died instantly. Mr. Shaw initially denied that he was texting while driving, but his phone records showed otherwise. He eventually confessed that it was in fact text messaging that caused this Utah car accident.

 

Video Courtesy of KSL.com.

Now, Mr. Shaw has turned advocate against texting while driving. (This came in part from the sentence that the judge gave, where Shaw was ordered to read the book “Les Misérables” in order to learn, like the book’s character Jean Valjean, how he could make a contribution to society following this tragic car accident. Shaw’s presentation to Utah’s legislature was said to be a turning point in their consideration of a bill sponsored by Hillyard.

Now, offenders who are found to have been texting while driving will face a misdemeanor charge and up to three months in jail and a fine of up to $750. If a text messaging driver causes a Utah car accident, the consequences are much worse: up to 15 years in prison and a felony on their record.

Proving that a driver was texting while driving, however, may prove difficult. There would first need to be witnesses that saw this take place, so that there would be cause to request phone records. Once obtained, phone records can certainly show if the driver was text messaging.

One thing is clear: the insurance company of a driver who causes a Utah car accident while texting will be paying out much more than they would otherwise. Here at the Kramer Law Group, our Utah personal injury lawyers have represented persons injured because of someone who became distracted while texting and driving. For example, we represented the gentleman injured in a crash, as reported on KSL.com. The woman who caused the crash, to her credit, admitted that she had been driving while text messaging. Her admission made our job of proving this fact, obviously, much easier and we were able to collect policy limits on our client’s case. What really adds value to these Utah text messaging accident cases, though, is the fact that punitive damages are a legally foregone conclusion.

Ron Kramer is a Utah personal injury and accident lawyer practicing throughout the state. Call the Kramer Law Group today at 801-666-3959 for a free consultation if you are in need of a Utah car accident attorney.

Two Different Utah Laws Produce Different Results

Different Laws enacted by Utah legislature have produced opposite safety results for Utah kids. The first law lowered the driver’s permit age to 15. Utah teenagers are hitting the road at a younger age, and experts say that is increasing the accident rate in this age demographic. According to the Utah Department of Public Safety, 15-year-old drivers are 26 percent more likely to be involved in a crash.

The second law has undeniable benefits for a different age group. This law requires children 8 and under to be in a car booster seat. According to KSL news, data gathered from across the country shows that a 7-year-old who wouldn’t normally be in a car seat is now 105 percent more likely to ride in a booster. “That is a significant number when you are looking at the number of children we have in this state,” said Janet Brooks, child advocacy manager for Primary Children’s Medical Center.

Car Seat Safety Data

According to The Center for Disease Control, Child safety seats reduce the risk of death in passenger cars by 71% for infants, and by 54% for toddlers ages 1 to 4 years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that children stay in some type of restraining seat until they are 8 years old or 4″9″ tall. Also, children should always ride in the back seat. Children and teens 16 years and younger are 40% less likely to be killed in an auto accident when they ride in the back seat.

Ron Kramer is a Utah personal injury and accident lawyer practicing throughout the state. Call the Kramer Law Group today at 801-666-3959 for a free consultation if you are in need of a Utah car accident attorney.

Cesar Medina Files Civil Rights Lawsuit Against West Valley City Police

25-year-old Cesar Medina has filed a civil rights lawsuit against West Valley Police Officer, Jared Cardon. Medina claims he didn’t deserve the treatment he received and has video evidence supporting his claim.

Medina said he was on the way to his girlfriend’s house when he noticed a police officer following him. The officer followed him for several blocks but did not activate his lights or siren. When Medina got to his girlfriend’s house he said the officer yelled at him to stay in his truck. The camera then began recording and showed the officer approaching Medina who was standing by his truck. The officers approached Medina and pushed him to the ground. The officer then began searching Medina while he was handcuffed on the ground.

The camera showed Officer Cardon asking Medina’s girlfriend if the truck was stolen. Medina said he borrowed the truck from a friend that day. According to KUTV.com, Medina asked the officer why he was pulled over. Officer Cardon told him he was had run a stop sign. Later in court, the stop sign charge was thrown out and Medina was cited for going 15 miles over the speed limit- which Medina denies.

Medina’s attorney said the officer used excessive force for no apparent reason. “The only reason you can use excessive force in effecting an arrest is if the suspect is somehow a threat, he is armed, he is fleeing.” Medina’s attorney believe the officer “stereotyped” and the was the reasoning behind the excessive force.

It is difficult to know all the details of the case. The camera did not catch the alleged traffic violations or the conversation that took place before Medina was thrown to the ground. It does appear that Medina had his hands in plain site and was not looking to flee the scene or resist arrest.

I think it is fair to say that no one reading this article would want to be treated the way Cesar Medina was treated. Since when do officers have the right to forcibly throw a speeder to the ground and cuff them when they are posing no threat to this rogue officer? Under the U.S. Constitution, they do not. I’m glad this suit is being brought. While I don’t think it will be a big money winner for Mr. Medina, I’m glad that the restrictions on law enforcement, guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, are being enforced against this officer and the police force he belongs to.

Ron Kramer is a Utah personal injury and accident lawyer practicing throughout the state. Call the Kramer Law Group today at 801-666-3959 for a free consultation.

Draper Mortuary Named By Lawyer in Brain Mishandling Suit Following Utah Auto Accident

Albuquerque, New Mexico personal injury lawyer Richard Valle has named a New Mexico and Draper, Utah funeral home as defendants after a particularly distressing find by a car accident victim’s family. According to ABC News, the named mortuaries, including the one in Draper, Utah, mishandled the remains of a woman who was killed in a serious September 28, 2009 Utah car accident. According to reports, the body was prepared by Serenicare Funeral Home of Draper, Utah and shipped to New Mexico for the funeral. Accompanying the body, was a bag containing the poor woman’s brain, which had apparently been severely damaged. The bag had been placed in a relative’s truck overnight and the next morning, family members noticed a foul smell coming from it. When the bag was opened, they discovered the brain. The brain has since been buried with the deceased woman.

These types of suits are called mishandling of corpse cases. The legal claim is that of negligence: negligent infliction of emotional distress, or NIED or short, and abuse or mishandling of a corpse. The theory is that there understandably will be severe emotional distress when a family member comes upon the brain placed in a bag and that the funeral homes should have taken measures to protect the family from this sight. In this case, the plaintiffs also allege breach of contract. Interestingly, none of the named defendants in this case are willing to accept responsibility and both are apparently blaming the other. It would seem that both would be interested in putting this matter to bed so as to avoid the untoward publicity that would naturally go along with a claim like this.

Ron Kramer is a Utah personal injury and accident lawyer practicing throughout the state. Call the Kramer Law Group today at 801-666-3959 for a free consultation if you are in need of a Utah car accident attorney.

Motorcycle Accident Takes Life of Payson Woman

Payson, Utah resident Karen Baker, 53 years old, died in a motorcycle accident while riding with her husband in California on January 1, 2010. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Ms. Baker was passenger on the motorcycle, which was being driven by her husband, just west of Lucerne Valley on Highway 18, when a car slowed in front of them to make a left-hand turn. Six other motorcycles in front of them, also slowed.

According to reports, her husband didn’t see the lead car and trailing motorcycles slowing down and veered off the road to avoid impacting them. He subsequently lost control of their 2008 Harley Davidson, causing the two of them to be thrown from the motorcycle. Although Karen Baker had a helmet on, it came off during the impact and she was pronounced dead at the scene. Her husband, Colton Baker, luckily suffered only minor injuries. She is survived by her husband, her parents, four children and five grandchildren.

My condolences go out to Karen’s husband and her family following this tragic motorcycle accident. It sounded like the two were out for a nice new year’s day drive when this happened. If there is anything to be learned from this crash, it would include the importance of always scanning the road in front of you and looking for hazards or changing traffic patterns and making sure when you ride, that your motorcycle helmet is securely fastened.

In this case, and based on the news account, it would appear that the parents and children of Karen Baker would be able to make a claim on the insurance policy taken out on the motorcycle. There also may be a possible claim against the car that initially slowed, if the driver of that car did so overly-abrubtly.

Ron Kramer is a Utah personal injury and accident lawyer practicing throughout the state. Call the Kramer Law Group today at 801-666-3959 for a free consultation if you are in need of a Utah motorcycle accident attorney.

Utah Sees Decrease in Auto Accident Fatalities

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, fewer people have died on Utah’s roads in 2009 than 2007 or 2008. The Utah Department of Transportation reports 238 deaths in 2009 down from the 276 reported traffic fatalities in 2008 and also fewer than the 299 reported in 2007.

Much can be attributed to driver education, specifically the “Zero Fatalities” campaign that focuses on driver safety.

UDOT’s Scott Thompson also points out that many of those who died in traffic accidents in 2009 weren’t wearing their seat belts. Forty percent of Utah’s deadly traffic accidents in 2008 were due to people not using their seat belts.

This is great news for Utah drivers. Zero Fatalities appears to be working and we still see room to improve. Wearing a seat belt is something that should be habit and could prevent even more Utah traffic fatalities in 2010.

Ron Kramer is a Utah personal injury and accident lawyer practicing throughout the state. Call the Kramer Law Group today at 801-666-3959 for a free consultation if you are in need of a Utah car accident attorney.